Over the years, I’ve written a lot of editorials at election time, saying get out and vote. It’s your civic duty, and your voice at the ballot box does count. At times, I’ve endorsed a politician. At times, a school referendum.
Today’s a little different: I’m endorsing myself :)
A poem of mine, published in February 2013, is up for a Reader’s Choice Award from the literary journal that published it. So here is your chance to weigh in, cast a ballot (get a little practice before the 2016 general elections!), and also get engaged a little with the literary community.
The timing, from my view, is interesting: my poem that is up for the award is “Where the Music Died,” based on the day I took my mom out to the Buddy Holly plane crash site not far south of where I live. This past weekend was the anniversary of the plane crash, which also killed the pop stars Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper. The Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake marked the anniversary, as it does every year, with its annual Winter Dance Party series of concerts.
District Lit, based in northern Virginia, made the announcement today about the Reader’s Choice Award. From the announcement:
District Lit will honor one fiction writer and one poet with the 2015 District Lit Readers’ Choice Award. Winners will be promoted at District Lit’s booth at AWP 2015 in Minneapolis and will see their work in print, also to be available at AWP.
Vote for your favorite poem and fiction piece published in District Lit using this survey link or by going to the “2015 Readers’ Choice Awards” page at districtlit.com. To ensure your vote has been tallied, please enter your email address and press the “submit” button at the bottom of the survey. Only one vote per email address is accepted. All pieces published in District Lit through December 31, 2014 are eligible for the Readers’ Choice Awards. [AWP is the Association of Writers & Writing Programs. Its annual convention is a big thing, especially among college creative writing programs. And other authors.]
The Readers’ Choice Award contest will be open from Friday, February 6 through Friday, March 6, 2015.
We will announce the winners before AWP in a special update to District Lit, as well as through our e-mail list, Twitter, and Facebook.
Here is my poem. If you like it, I’d like your vote!
Where the Music Died
It’s where the music died
the place she has thought about,
off and on, for fifty-three years:
the farm field, the bodies flung
from the falling, thudding plane
into the ice and snow and dirt.
Now she is here, a graying, ill woman,
still younger than Buddy Holly would have been,
still older than Richie Valens would have been.
It’s Holly she’s come for:
The strong-jawed Texan,
defiant in the studio,
defiant in his music — guitars of rage and rebellion and youth,
lyrics of such ferocity that she knew he not only understood love,
but had plunged a fist into the blood and meat of it, found its heart.
Barbed-wire, concrete block, daddy’s crossed-arms: None
stand a chance stopping a fire like that.
And what girl wouldn’t want that?
We’ve taken her there, north of Clear Lake.
Not much of a shrine, the simplicity, the absence
of commercialism, is a nod, it’s said,
to modesty and the sanctity of death.
But it is so modest as to be cheapened,
I think: a super-sized, sheet-metaled pair of black
horn-rimmed glasses at the road side,
and, in the field itself, a pair of shiny silver metal cut-outs,
on the lip of a field path, pressed against barbed-wire
separating a corn field from a soybean field.
The crash site is kitsch site, too. Fans, tourists
leave random personal belongings beneath the two markers,
scarves, beads, bottle of cologne, glasses, plastic flowers, combs, small change:
it’s as if someone dumped a purse upside down.
My mother says a couple things about this, but otherwise
is content to stand where the singers died,
to think of a past where she was a beauty: spry,
a cheerleader, eye-catcher of young men in two states.
Music does this, of course, lets us hum through time, place, memory.
So does thinking about death.
The crash site gives both,
and my mother shuffles her feet through the little piles
of debris, making her way around the markers, nearly
getting snagged by the fencing.
Ground lightning off to the west. But she’s in no hurry.
Is she saying a graveside prayer?
Maybe singing “Oh Boy,” to herself.
We take some photos.
Then she speaks, saying something about Buddy Holly’s wife
being pregnant when he died —
his young wife.
On our way back to the car, I tap my fingers
on the steel of the big pair of glasses,
and they make a slight pinging noise.
I’d like to say it sounds like a guitar chord, but it doesn’t.
It just sounds like sheet metal in the open air of Iowa,
in a place where men died.